Atlanta Public Schools on Probation; Southwest Atlanta Parents"Concerned," "Staying Faithful"
Accrediting body gives APS nine months to address concerns; Cascade parents are cautiously optimistic about system's future
Vickie Chennault, mother of a Mays High School senior, listened attentively Tuesday as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) announced plans to place the Atlanta Public Schools on probation.
Though school board officials assured parents and community leaders that the probation status “has nothing to do with the strength and quality of the district's program,” Chennault said she was not totally convinced.
“I am leaving here even more concerned,” said Chennault. “It should have never [gotten] to this level. They know how crucial this is to our children, our schools, and our communities.”.
One of the main concerns associated with loss of accreditation, say parents like Chennault, is the potential decrease in property values. And, they say, high school students would be especially affected because they may have a tougher time getting into good colleges if they graduate from an unaccredited school.
SACS said Tuesday that the Atlanta school system must take six actions by Sept. 30, to avoid losing accreditation:
- Develop and implement a long-term plan to communicate with and engage stakeholders in the work of the district and to regain the trust of parents and students.
- Secure and actively use the services of a trained, impartial mediator who will work with board members to resolve communication, operational and personal issues that are impeding the effectiveness of the governing body.
- Ensure that the actions and behavior of all board members are aligned with board policies, especially those related to ethics and chain of command.
- Review and refine policies to achieve the mission to educate students.
- Develop and implement a process for selecting a new superintendent that is transparent and engages public participation. The final choice of superintendent should be determined by more than a simple majority of the board.
- Work with the state of Georgia to address inconsistencies between the state charter for the school board and system policies.
When Clayton County schools lost accreditation a few years ago, many parents scrambled to get their children into private schools or public schools in neighboring counties.
Shawna Hayes-Tavares, President of the Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools (SNAPPS), a support and advocacy group that serves the Cascade Heights area, also expressed her concern about the board's ability to resolve it's issues in the wake of past problems, including the ongoing CRCT cheating scandal.
“I'm trying to stay faithful. I [have] moderate faith, which is not very good. But, I'm gonna wait and see,” Hayes-Tavares said.
In addition to heading SNAPPS, Hayes-Tavares is also the parent of APS students at Mays High, Inman Middle, and Peyton Forest Elementary Schools. From her perspective, the Board's main obstacle in the following the six step plan will be "measurable goals." Specifically, how will the Board quantify their progression in order to convince SACS that it should remain accredited.
The Board did not mention specific actions it would take to remain accredited by the September deadline. Nevertheless, APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall said, “I am confident this board will united and resolve any issues it has."
Whatever the course, Hayes-Tavares believes that "If the community puts the fire to the Board to come up with real solutions [and] real changes, they they will do it."